The development cycle for AI has peaked, and businesses are jumping in. By 2022, IDC predicts that companies worldwide will channel over $77.6 billion into AI, while AI-empowered startups pulled in a record $9.3 billion in 2018, with more investments on the horizon. For most businesses, AI promises to increase workforce efficiencies and pave the way to new discoveries and breakthroughs, but it also places new demands on their IT investments and infrastructure choices.
Up to 14% of Asia Pacific executives have already used some form of AI to bolster the capabilities of their business. And more will follow, as businesses today face pressure to both grow their profits and improve the lives of the people and communities they serve. In that regard, AI isn’t just essential in reducing operational expenditure and raising workflow efficiencies – it also frees employees to meet customers’ needs more efficiently, innovatively, and intelligently.
AI perpetuates productivity
At a fundamental level, business leaders can and should apply AI to make business processes more efficient. AI can improve workforce efficiency by automating mundane or repetitive tasks resulting in a 20% boost in productivity, essentially adding one employee to every five. Alibaba, for example, forwarded 325,000 orders and created up to 400 million custom banner ads, all within a single day, thanks to a combination of AI and automation across its logistics and digital advertising operations.
In practice, this means low-value tasks are done by AI in the background, ready for use when needed. AI-powered litigation software like ROSS Intelligence, for instance, helps law firms rapidly scan and sort through case histories, contracts and documents to find case-relevant information, giving lawyers more data – and time – to help their clients. When businesses are able to do more, with less, it doesn’t just strengthen their ability to deliver future results – businesses will also be able to set higher goals or ambitious KPIs for their business units, who can now focus their time, headspace – and drive – to experiment or explore possibilities that will advance their industries forward, and improve outcomes for their customers.
To maintain these productivity gains, however, businesses will need the right hardware to ensure their AI runs at peak performance amidst business growth. NetApp’s ONTAP AI, for example, provides both the high-processing power needed for complex automation, as well as scalability as the business becomes increasingly automated. While business leaders’ needs can be supported by appliance-like hardware such as ONTAP AI in a cost-effective manner, though they should take care to choose those which can scale beyond the single application.
AI’s effect on business development
AI can not only make current operations more productive, but direct attention to new business opportunities that harness the fuller potential of both employees and technology. When drone makers DJI used AI to solve object identification in their drones, their efforts created a new alternative to warehouse logistics. NetApp customer, Cambridge Consultants showcased the possibilities of deep learning by creating ‘Vincent’, an AI technology demonstration that uses a digested sum of Renaissance art in combination with a pre-drafted human sketch, to produce art to order, as if Van Gogh and Picasso were inside the machine. At the other end of the spectrum, Flatiron Health analyses global patient data with AI, speeding up clinical trials and helping to develop more precise and less invasive cancer treatments. With powerful enough data infrastructure, AI can help businesses explore new possibilities, and implement them for the benefit of all.
The technology can also render governance and management processes more productive. By analysing real-time data from the cloud, AI can provide a higher level of ‘data governance’, giving heads-up on potential risks, opportunities and dangers. Shell, for instance, is using AI to alert their leaders about predicted security risks for their complex offshore oil rigs – allowing the business to responsibly and swiftly act before environmental catastrophe can occur. Businesses can take it further and utilise AI-led simulations, allowing analysis of possible high-risk businesses scenarios, such as future disasters, outages or data breaches. This doesn’t just minimise business risks; it also gives business leaders the opportunity to prevent unintended harm and safeguard the wellbeing of the communities where they operate.
In essence, this allows a business to gain tremendous oversight while delivering accountability not just to the board, but to customers and the broader community as well. Risk prediction is an analysis-intensive affair, and accuracy can be improved when AIs can access high volumes of available compute resources. It’s particularly important for businesses to ensure the fidelity of their AI hardware, even in complex or peak demand scenarios, when relying on the technology for compliance and governance purposes. On-premise or private cloud hardware still tends to perform better than the public cloud in this regard. ONTAP AI, for example, hosts in it NVidia’s DGX-1 supercomputer, giving users high-performance computing capabilities within a low-latency environment that ensures businesses can access clear, reliable insight in any situation.
It is clear that AI doesn’t just lead to gains in productivity and efficiency, but also opens up the way for businesses to better serve and enrich the lives of customers, partners, and communities. With the right AI service, and the right high-performance computing and network hardware, businesses can put themselves on track to rapid, reliable improvements in their operations and output – while also delivering lasting benefits to those around them.